When Kent State went into last year’s game against Eastern Kentucky, we didn’t know what to expect.
The Flashes were coming off of a 77-52 victory over Bradley in coach Todd Starkey’s first game at Kent State. They were also coming off five straight losing seasons and a 6-23 record.
Eastern Kentucky came in with an 18-12 record in 2015-16, a prediction of a third–place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference, and the league preseason player of the year.
Kent State beat the Colonels 80-67 and went on to a 19-13 season and a MAC East title. Eastern Kentucky struggled to a 12-20 record and seventh place in the OVC, though it did become the first seventh seed in conference history to make the league tournament championship game, where it lost to Belmont.
This year KSU goes to Eastern Kentucky as a clear favorite. The Flashes are 5-3; EKU is 2-4. The Flashes have four starters returning from last year’s championship team; Eastern has one back from a disappointing season.
It’s still a road game, which is always a bit dicey, and Kent State has yet to beat top — or even above average — competition. But the Flashes are in a much better place than they were going into last year’s Eastern Kentucky game.
Eastern has lost three games in a row and three of its four losses have come to the MAC’s Bowling Green, Akron and Ohio. The fourth was to Cincinnati. All of the losses have been by double digits.
The Colonels have a roster that includes eight freshmen and four junior transfers. their leading scorer and rebounder is 5-8 junior guard A’Queen Hayes, a transfer from Mississippi, where she was on the SEC all-freshman team. She is averaging 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. Top returnee is 5-11 forward Abby Wright, who had 20 points against Ohio last Tuesday.
Kent State is led by 6-3 senior forward Jordan Korinek, who is averaging 20.8 points a game and has increased her career point total to 1,301. That’s 15th most in Kent State history. Korinek is shooting above 50 percent from the field and from three-point distance and making 80 percent of her free throws. She has shot and made more foul shots than any other player in the MAC.
Six-foot guard Ali Poole is averaging 10.6 points a game and 6-foot forward McKenna Stephens 10.3. Guard Alexa Golden is close to joining them in double figures, averaging 9.4.
Eastern Kentucky actually has a better record than any team KSU has beaten. Youngstown State, Southeastern Louisiana and Memphis each have won one game. Northern Kentucky and Detroit are winless.
To follow the game
Action starts at 7 p.m. If you plan to go, it’s a 5 1/2-hour drive. Here are directions from the Eastern Kentucky website.
Video is available through the EKU website.
Audio starts at about 6:45 p.m on Golden Flash iHeart Radio.
Live statistics will be available through EKU.
Preview from the Eastern Kentucky website, including links to its roster and schedule. Here are EKU’s detailed media game notes.
Kent State statistics, including links to roster, schedule/results, record book, etc. I’ll post the preview from the site when it’s available.